The Inferno written by Dante Alighieri is an epic about his journey through Hell. In Dante’s representation of Hell contains nine circles containing different sins each with a more severe punishment than the last. In these increasingly terrifying scenarios, he encounters many ironic punishments and often has discussions with a person amidst the torment. Dante is accompanied by a guide (Virgil) who acts as the mentor. The two travel through hell in hopes of reaching Heaven. While Dante walks as a bystander in the terrors of hell, he begins to commit sins himself, although towards the sinners which he encounters he still is admitted into heaven. While Dante occasionally sins throughout his journey, he usually meets the sinners with compassion and pity, but Virgil meets them with the opposite and views them in disgust. While they may treat them any way they want, the one which causes them the most torment is God, which Dante himself views cruel at times.These incongruities and travesties, bring the morality of the Catholic system of condemnation into question.
In conceiving the punishments of Hell, Dante employs mythical material and elements of popular faith; they are enormously imaginative, but each single one of them is based on strict and precise reflection, on the rank and degree of the sin in question, on a thorough knowledge of rational systems of ethics; and each one, as a concrete realization of the idea of divine order, is calculated to provoke rational thought concerning the nature of this sin, that is, the way in which it deviates from the divine order. (111)
In Dante’s Inferno hell is divided into nine “circles” of hell; the higher the number correlates to the grimmer the sin and the pain you will endure. However, I do not completely agree with Dante’s version of hell, perhaps due to the difference in time periods. In this essay I will be pointing out my concerns with Dante’s description of hell and how I would recreate hell if I were Dante.
Throughout the epic poem Inferno, Dante the Pilgrim travels into the different circles of Hell told by Dante the Poet. The story examines what a righteous life is by showing us examples of sinful lives. Dante is accompanied by his guide Virgil, who takes him on a journey to examine sin and the effects it has in has in the afterlife to different sinners. Through the stories of Francesca and Paolo, Brunetto Latini, Ulysses and Guido da Montefeltro, we are able to understand that people are self-interested in the way they act and present themselves to others and that those in Hell are there because they have sinned and failed to repent their sins and moral failings.
The Divine Comedy written by Dante is one of the greatest poems ever written based on the fact that it is an autobiography as well as an allegory. It is considered an autobiography of Dante because he uses his personal experiences as motivation and inspiration. The beginning of first poem in The Divine Comedy, The Inferno, is related to the emotions Dante experienced after being exiled from Florence. He is wandering in the woods when he comes up to the bottom of a hill and starts to climb it before he is stopped by three creatures. This scene relates to how lost and confused Dante felt, along with feeling like he was attacked. By using his personal experiences and emotions, Dante actually wrote what is known as an allegory. Gay Johnson
In the Inferno, Dante gives his audience the clear view as to what he believes as a Christian follower, that hell has to offer. He shows that worldly sin every single sin has a fair punishment. An example in Dante would be when Cocytus was frozen because he committed the cold crime of fraud. The deeper that Virgil and Dante go into hell, the greater volume of sin is committed. In each level of hell, the criminals are punished equally depending on what their crime was. Dante learns that God's punishment is just and that his power is divine. He sets forth one of the most fully developed Christian understanding of justice on this earth. He describes this justice as what we do as human beings will determine what happens to us when it is our time to go based on Gods judgment. An example of this divine power would be when the Furies will not let Dante and Virgil get past the Gate of Dis.
Dante Alighieri presents a vivid and awakening view of the depths of Hell in the first book of his Divine Comedy, the Inferno. The reader is allowed to contemplate the state of his own soul as Dante "visits" and views the state of the souls of those eternally assigned to Hell's hallows. While any one of the cantos written in Inferno will offer an excellent description of the suffering and justice of hell, Canto V offers a poignant view of the assignment of punishment based on the committed sin. Through this close reading, we will examine three distinct areas of Dante's hell: the geography and punishment the sinner is restricted to, the character of the sinner, and the "fairness" or justice of the punishment in relation to the sin. Dante's Inferno is an ordered and descriptive journey that allows the reader the chance to see his own shortcomings in the sinners presented in the text.
In analyzing this gradient of morality, it is useful first to examine a work from early literature whose strong purity of morality is unwavering; for the purposes of this discussion, Dante’s Inferno provides this model. It is fairly straightforward to discover Dante’s dualistic construction of morality in his winding caverns of Hell; each stern, finite circle of Hell is associated with a clear sin that is both definable and directly punishable. As Dante moves downwards in this moral machination, he notes that
It is hard to place St. Augustine within just one of the levels of Dante’s hell for his sins were varied and not great. Today many of his sins are commonplace. For example, most people attempt to better their own lives without regard of others. They attempt to increase their standard of living and gain more worldly possessions. They are neither good nor evil but are just trying to make a living and keep up in today’s fend-for-yourself society. Before Augustine’s conversion, this was his goal. He was continually searching for “honors, money, (and) marriage” (Confessions, 991). This allows Augustine to be placed in the first area of hell, the Vestibule. It is a place for opportunists such as Augustine was before his conversion. It is a place for the “nearly soulless. . . who were neither for God nor Satan, but only for themselves” (Inferno, 1295). Augustine never intentionally hurt anyone, but his actions were led by his instincts to succeed and gain praise. These actions included kissing up to the Emperor, his study of law and the art of persuasion, and the mocking of newcomers to his profession. Since each of these sins also falls within a different realm of Dante’s hell, they will be discussed later in this paper.
Moreover, Dante, the narrator of the Inferno, has succeeded in not only telling the frightening story of the Inferno, but also pointing out the importance of the relationship between human’s sins and God’s retribution, using the monsters as the symbols for each kind of sin and its punishment throughout the progress of the story, which teaches his readers to be well aware of their sins through the literature – a part of humanities; the disciplines that teach a man to be a human.
Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy is said to be the single greatest epic poem of all time. The opening story of the character of Dante the Pilgrim is told in the first of the three divisions: The Inferno. The Inferno is a description of Dante’s journey down through Hell and of the several degrees of suffering and many mythical creatures that he encounters on the way. Throughout his travel Dante displays many different feelings and actions but the emotion that summarizes the entire poem is fear. While some of his character traits change as his mind matures and acknowledges the justice being carried out, from the very beginning until the final Canto, his fear does not subside. This does well to reinforce the symbolism of Dante as Everyman and serves to direct the reader to the moral purpose of Divine Comedy, because of the humility and dependence upon God that fear produces. In the first Canto, which serves as an introduction to the entire comedy, Dante encounters the three beasts which impede his progress out of the dark woods. Coming upon the She-Wolf he writes: "This last beast brought my spirit down so low / with fear that seized me at the sight of her, / lost all hope of going up the hill" (I.52-54). Dante is so shaken by the appearances of the three beasts that he rushes headlong into the dark woods he has just come out of. This is only the first obstacle Dante encounters, but it proves an insurmountable one.
In Dante’s Inferno, Dante takes a journey with Virgil through the many levels of Hell in order to experience and see the different punishments that sinners must endure for all eternity. As Dante and Virgil descend into the bowels of Hell, it becomes clear that the suffering increases as they continue to move lower into Hell, the conical recess in the earth created when Lucifer fell from Heaven. Dante values the health of society over self. This becomes evident as the sinners against society experience suffering greater than those suffer which were only responsible for sinning against themselves. Dante uses contrapasso, the Aristotelian theory that states a soul’s form of suffering in Hell contrasts or extends their sins in their life on earth, to ensure that the sinners never forget their crimes against God. Even though some of the punishments the sinners in Hell seem arbitrary, they are fitting because contrapasso forces each sinner to re-live the most horrible aspect of their sin to ensure they never forget their crimes against God.
Inferno is the first and most famous of a three part series by Dante Alighieri known as the Divine Comedy that describes his journey to God through the levels of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise written in the early fourteenth century. Scholars spanning over nearly seven centuries have praised its beauty and complexity, unmatched by any other medieval poem. Patrick Hunt’s review, “On the Inferno,” states, “Dante’s extensive use of symbolism and prolific use of allegory— even in incredible anatomical detail—have been often plumbed as scholars have explored the gamut of his work’s classical, biblical, historical, and contemporary political significance” (9). In the story, each of the three main characters, Dante, Virgil, and Beatrice, represent
“How stern the power of Almighty God who crushes sinners with such righteous blows(Canto XXIV lines 109-110)!” In Dante’s Inferno, Dante Alighieri describes a trip through Hell, visiting the various sinners and circles of Hell. Dante also uses many experiences and beliefs from his real life to enrich his views of Hell and his idea of Divine Punishment. Dante’s perception of Divine Justice includes sinners whom he places in Hell for committing crimes without regret, they are placed lower in Hell according to the severity of their sins. Dante is not always just in his placement of sinners, his personal grudges and archaic Catholic beliefs get in the way of true Divine Justice.
Ever since they were created Greek heroes and their stories have found a perpetual home in the minds and imagination of everyday people. There they grow to new height through art and literature. Dante Alighieri includes famous Greek characters throughout the first book of his Divine Comedy: Hell. From the famed philosophers and personages who fill Limbo to the very last circles of Hell where the giants inhabit, Dante uses as images of different sins, and punishment for individuals sins famous Greek monsters, lovers, and heroes.